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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Trail Blazers

A streaking San Antonio squad capitalizes on another shorthanded opponent.

San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Silver and Black decimated the shorthanded Trail Blazers behind an early explosion from beyond the arc and suffocating defense throughout the evening. While Portland closed a massive deficit to 12 points during the opening moments of the fourth quarter, San Antonio answered back with an insurmountable run that ended in a 114-83 blowout.

Bryn Forbes notched a game-high 18 points off the pine, Doug McDermott chipped in 16 points in his return from nagging knee soreness, and Jakob Poeltl logged 14 points to go along with a season-high four blocks. Keldon Johnson also recorded 14 points as Dejounte stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 15 points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, and two steals.

The Spurs unquestionably had plenty of things go their way on Thursday night, but they showed the resolve to pick up their level of play when the going got tough in the final period. San Antonio’s half-court attack tends to stall out for extended stretches, yet time and time again, their rapidly improving defense has carried them past the finish line.

Bryn Forbes can be useful to the Spurs in specific situations

A good portion of Spurs fans grumbled when PATFO brought Bryn Forbes back for a second stint in San Antonio this summer. The undersized guard stood out as a severe defensive liability in his last go-round with the Silver and Black, which only led to more blame than he probably deserved when their NBA record 22 straight playoff appearances came to an end.

Although the 28-year-old three-point specialist sports a team-worst -12.2 net rating this season, there have been more than a few occasions where playing for long stretches makes sense. San Antonio has struggled to find any consistency from beyond the arc this season, and when Bryn has the hot hand, it is nearly impossible to keep him glued to the pine.

The good guys were uncharacteristically white-hot on the outside in the first half. But when they came back down to earth, their 27-point cushion shrank to 12 points during the final frame. With the offense sputtering to a total standstill, head coach Gregg Popovich turned to Forbes, who answered with 18 points, three triples, and emerged as an unlikely savior.

Have Thaddeus Young and Tre Jones broken into the rotation?

Thaddeus Young and Tre Jones have picked up a combined five DNPs this season while seesawing in and outside of the rotation. Head coach Gregg Popovich typically calls on Bryn Forbes and Drew Eubanks as some of the first players off the bench, but he switched things up on Thursday, turning to Thad and Tre to bolster the second unit instead.

While the 33-year-old small-ball center had a minor case of butterfingers, he more than made up for it by causing a couple of turnovers and spurring a pair of successful fastbreaks. Thad finished the night with 8 points, four rebounds, two steals, and an assist, but the latter doesn’t begin to explain how much his unselfish passing encourages better ball movement.

As for San Antonio’s sophomore point guard, Tre has continued to flash encouraging signs despite lacking traditionally flashy box score numbers. Whether diving on the court for loose balls, pestering opposing guards at the point of attack, or making the correct read as a secondary distributor, the Duke alumnus always seems to make winning plays.

San Antonio is finally capitalizing on advantageous matchups

Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re good, and recently, the Spurs have been a bit of both. San Antonio’s opponents have shot a frigid 39.1% from the field over the last three contests, the second-worst mark in the NBA over that period. Their improved defense has unmistakably helped their cause, though open shots just aren’t falling for their foes.

Superstar point guard Damian Lillard and pivotal role player Nassir Little sat out the proceedings for Portland. Meanwhile, resident sharpshooter Doug McDermott and breakout sixth-man Devin Vassell returned to the lineup for the Spurs. Both events swayed the odds in San Antonio’s favor, and an injury to Anfernee Simons further fueled an eventual rout.

However, the Silver and Black can only control how they play, not who they face, and with that in mind, fans should be pleased with how they have taken care of business as of late. CJ McCollum and Norman Powell could have detonated with Dame on the sidelines, but a steady dosage of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White held the duo to a combined 10-of-31 shooting.